A top U.S. intelligence official told the Congress on Thursday he was “even more resolute” in his belief that Russia staged cyber attacks on Democrats in the 2016 election campaign, despite skepticism from Republican President-elect Donald Trump about findings on Moscow’s role.
James Clapper, the Director of National Intelligence, said he had a very high level of confidence that Russia hacked Democratic Party institutions and operatives, as well as disseminating propaganda and fake news aimed at the Nov. 8 election.
“Our assessment now is even more resolute than it was” on Oct. 7 when the government first publicly accused Russia, Clapper told a hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee.
Although Trump called himself a “big fan” of intelligence agencies, he is heading for a conflict over the issue because he has cast doubt on their assessments that Russia targeted the election. Many lawmakers from both parties are wary of Moscow and distrust Trump’s praise of Russian President Vladimir Putin and efforts to heal the rift between the United States and Russia.
Trump will be briefed by intelligence agency chiefs on Friday on hacks that targeted the Democratic Party in the run-up to the election surprisingly won by the New York businessman.
“I don’t think we’ve ever encountered a more aggressive or direct campaign to interfere in our election process than we’ve seen in this case,” said Clapper, who leaves when Trump becomes president on Jan. 20. Clapper stopped short of declaring Russia’s actions “an act of war,” saying that determination was beyond the scope of his office